You’ve taught the lessons, marked and fed back and now it’s up to your students to apply this knowledge in exam conditions. But how do we get them ready? Working with key stage 4 and 5 students I am frequently frustrated by how they think they will revise. “I’m going to read through my notes, Miss!” As teachers, we know that active revision is much more effective than passive revision; quality over quantity and awareness that there is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy. The following classroom activities are intended to engage our learners and train them to become more active with revision.
WAGOLLs – What a good one looks like. Modelling in the classroom shows the outcome you want to achieve by giving explicit and precise reference to assessment objectives or criteria. In John Mitchell’s 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Revision (2016) he compares a WAGOLL to a jigsaw puzzle: ‘…it is much easier to complete it when you know what the overall image looks like’. You could use WAGOLLs as a display – showcasing work next to a mark scheme and labelling it. Exam boards often release WAGOLLs in this way alongside examiners’ reports. This is a powerful teaching tool and encourages high expectations and ambition as students can visually see what they need to do to answer at the various levels. My weaker learners gain confidence from seeing what other students do and how they access the marks.
Perform it/Teach it – There is the well-established edu-myth that “we learn: 10 percent of what we read; 20 percent of what we hear; 30 percent of what we both see and hear; 50 percent of what we discussed with others; 80 percent of what we experience personally; 95 percent of what we teach to someone else” and whilst it would be naive to oversimplify how young people learn my own experience does indicate that collaborative working supports the embedding of information into the long term memory. So why not get your students thinking like teachers and creating revision resources that they can share and test their peers with? Get them explaining and discussing challenging concepts to and with one another …and a step further performing key learning ideas! Using drama techniques can be very memorable for students and have that ‘stick-ability factor’. Some ideas to try:-
- Freeze Frame – students have to present a significant fact/moment/quote as a single image and an audience have to decipher its meaning
- Speeches – present learning in a given speech style – prime minister, sports commentator, Oscar winner, TV presenter
- Sell it – working in small groups create a ‘QVC’ style presentation that explores an aspect from the content you are revising (character, viewpoint, case study, cause of an event).
Collaborative placemats – Inspired by Gael Luzet
Students work in groups of four, each with a blank placemat, ideally in A1, A2 or A3 size.
Student should be seated on each side of the placemat with an outer space to themselves. The activity works in two stages:
Stage 1. Each student records their ideas, response, views or facts on a given topic in the outer sections.
Stage 2. Students then write an agreed response in the central square.
There are different ways to use this:
- Give each group an exam question and ask them to use the placemat to share ideas to come up with key points.
- Use this task to brainstorm a topic that has been taught a while back, encouraging students to recall their knowledge, and share ideas.
Mindmaps – this isn’t revolutionary but it’s an old favourite because mind maps enable us to organise information better visually, through the use of branches and sub-branches. This form of ideas generation is a highly creative process and one that encourages us to view ideas and topics from fresh perspectives and to think in a non-linear fashion. Mind maps allow us to organise massive volumes of information, encouraging us to focus on the ideas and facts that really matter. There is the suggestion that mind maps make facts easier to remember thanks to the colours and images they contain, which are easier for the brain to retain than linear text.
Revision cards and key rings – Retrieval practice, which involves recalling facts, concepts or events from memory, is a more effective learning strategy than review by rereading. Retrieval strengthens the memory and interrupts forgetting. A single simple quiz after reading a text produces better learning and remembering than re-reading the text. Create flashcards in class as a consolation exercise and this resource can then be used to ‘self-quiz’ over a period of time. I’ve seen these used particularly well in history where students have created key event/date cards and kept different topics together on key rings.
Poundland pedagogy – since Isabella Wallace’s original blog exploring how average poundstore items can be priceless resources for teachers of any subject, Twitter has exploded with amazing suggestions for #PoundlandPedagogy. But can we use it for revision too? Well the online Twitter community has said “YES!” Students enjoy being creative and by presenting them with ‘random’ objects we can encourage them to consider how such an item relates to what is being revised in class. By creating a scenario where learning is exciting, engaging and memorable, where learners are expected to think hard and apply knowledge then we can ensure that deeper thinking is undertaken!
Word clouds and InfoDoodling – promote the practice of capturing information in a visual-language format. By asking students to process their learning and then present it in a visual way they are expected to prioritise, categorise, interpret and analyse – all important stages of revision. For our learners, ‘doodling’ can play an important role in creative thinking and brainstorming. It helps you to stay engaged, communicate more effectively, and better understand complex concepts.
Diamond 9 – this is a popular classroom activity, where learners are challenged to think through a concept on their own. This is a useful tool to promote in class discussions as well as evaluation and explanation. Teachers provide the class with a discussion point or question and from this, learners must come up with 9 possible responses. Once this has been completed, learners are asked to discuss each of these responses for the Diamond 9, ranking them as follows:-
Some students may struggle to create their own responses so previously prepared cards would focus on the skill of evaluation; there could even be more than 9 and students are asked to consider what they would leave out.
Key word bingo – a quick and easy starter or plenary. The game tests knowledge of keywords or terms and their definitions in an engaging way. I like to get students to create their own Bingo card on a given topic. I then read out the definition of key words or terms associated with the chosen topic/concept and students cross off the answer on their boards. In keeping with the rules of the game I like to give out a prize for ‘line’ and then ‘full house’!
Independence booklets – guide your students with how to revise. By preparing a booklet with a range of tasks, including exam questions, we can support a wide range of learners with a more active approach to revision and endeavour to tackle procrastination! For example GCSE drama tasks could include key word definitions, labelled set diagrams, costume designs, multiple choice plot questions, short answer questions on an extract and longer questions on theme and character. Once the booklets are handed out, students can select what they want to work on but with a minimum weekly expectation set by the teacher.